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CALEB YANKING OUT CONCRETE PIERS ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. The joists under the obsolete floor in need of removal ha


CALEB YANKING OUT CONCRETE PIERS ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. The joists under the obsolete floor in need of removal had been supported by a heavy-duty wooden composite beam which sat on row of concrete “Sonotubes:” rugged round fiberboard forms filled with concrete and metal reinforcing bar (‘rebar’).

The footings for each rebar-reinforced Sonotube – spaced four-foot apart – were down below the frost line, four-to-five feet into the ground. Everything about that floor was designed for extra-heavy-duty permanence, so the piers were reluctant to leave their snug homes.

In this photo Caleb is in the cab of the 5500-pound New Holland Skidsteer Loader, using a stout logging chain to pull on a stubborn pier. Working the piers around and back and forth they all eventually popped out.

Shortly after, the fill beneath the old floor was compacted, then additional gravel was added. In this way the final concrete floor could extend seamlessly into this area abutting the remaining section of what was the old Packing Shed. That will continue to serve as a loading dock for daily pickups by parcel carriers USPS and Fedex for our Organic Seed Business.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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WOOD PRAIRIE FLOOR REMOVAL: ONE DOWN & FOUR TO GO. We sawed up the 48-foot-long by 13-foot wide obsolete wood floor

WOOD PRAIRIE FLOOR REMOVAL: ONE DOWN & FOUR TO GO. We sawed up the 48-foot-long by 13-foot wide obsolete wood floor into five chunks which would fit through the gap of the twelve-foot-wide garage door.

Here, Caleb is using the grapple on the New Holland Skidsteer loader to remove the first floor section. Caleb’s brother Peter is making sure the section clears the doorway. Justin walks back and returns to prep the next floor section for removal.

When we built this floor in 1990, we knew it would be subjected to a lot of weight from multiple pallets of Potatoes. So we spaced the concrete Sona Tubes close at four-foot-spacing to support the heavy homemade composite carrying beam. Crossways, the floor joints were spaced 12-inches-on-center. The two-inch-thick floor was composed of two layers of full 1″ dimensional boards.

It’s our understanding that outside of Northern Maine this sort of construction is referred to as “over-engineering.”

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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WOOD PRAIRIE DEMO TEAM TACKLES A FLOOR BUILT TO LAST. The next step in our Wood Prairie Packing Shed rebuild was to r

WOOD PRAIRIE DEMO TEAM TACKLES A FLOOR BUILT TO LAST. The next step in our Wood Prairie Packing Shed rebuild was to remove a 13-foot section of wood floor which had become obsolete.
Here, Caleb’s brother Peter (right) and Justin (left) use reciprocating saws and crowbars to chunk up the floor into narrow sections the grapel loader on the Skidsteer can handle.
The plastic sheeting protects the enduring portion of the Packing Shed. That plastic is suspended from the 48-foot-long 5.5″ x 12″ LVL laminated beam we built to support the cadre of abbreviated roof trusses above.
We constructed this wooden floor 33 years ago. It was ruggedly built and for decades successfully supported pallet racks and multiple 2500-pound pallets and boxes of Potatoes parked nose-to-tale.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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INSTALLING “TIMBER FILL” INSULATION ON WOOD PRAIRIE WAREHOUSE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT. Recently, the crew worked together


INSTALLING “TIMBER FILL” INSULATION ON WOOD PRAIRIE WAREHOUSE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT. Recently, the crew worked together and blew twenty-inches of attic insulation into the 5000 square-foot warehouse we’re trying to finish up before the weather turns colder.

We opted to go with a new-to-the-USA insulation product called “Timber Fill.” This insulation is a manufactured loose-bodied-fiber made from softwood sawmill waste treated with flame-retardant Borate.

This wood-fiber-insulation process was pioneered twenty years ago in Europe. The first USA plant began production of this green new insulation just this Fall here in Madison, Maine, at the site of the old imposing former paper mill.

That production plant is run by Scott Dionne, uncle of one of Caleb’s best friends, Devon Dionne, all hailing from Aroostook County. For years Scott was a leader at Aroostook County business S.W. Collins Building Supply, the family-company run by the brothers of U.S. Senator Susan Collins.

Pictured here, Andrew (left) and Justin each toss sacks of insulation into one of two Insulation Blowers. Out of view up in the attic, Caleb directs the ends of the two hoses and systematically fills up the attic space. The 20 inches of Timber Fill will provide super insulation performance to the tune of R-68. It is definitely dusty work, but it doesn’t itch like fiberglass insulation does!

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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PREPARATIONS BEFORE BLOWING INSULATION INTO WAREHOUSE CEILING. The short-six-foot headspace in the room above our new


PREPARATIONS BEFORE BLOWING INSULATION INTO WAREHOUSE CEILING. The short-six-foot headspace in the room above our new office presents some unavoidable limitations.

But it has potential as additional storage or even future office space since we opted to design-in two windows during construction of the Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) warehouse shell two years ago.

In this photo, Justin (left) and Caleb work together to attach sheet rock to the strapping beneath roof truss members. They had previously installed the room’s subfloor and that step made the area much more useful.

In time, it allowed us to once again play musical chairs. We temporarily relocated items formerly housed in the unfinished gravel-floored warehouse. The future Packing Shed had to be completely emptied ahead of this month’s concrete floor pour.

After finishing the wall board job, Caleb wired the room’s ceiling and installed extra-efficient LED flush-mount lights, the same ones that he installed in the office ceiling below a year ago.

With the sheet rock and wiring completed, we were then able to blow in the twenty-inches of ‘Timber Fill’ attic insulation. That means the full warehouse will have a ceiling high R-Value of about 68. So it should be easy to maintain the 45ºF we want our Packing Shed kept at.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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DUSTY DEMO AFTERMATH: VIEW FROM REMAINING PACKING SHED POST-REMOVAL OF WALL & CEILING. This view is looking eastwar

DUSTY DEMO AFTERMATH: VIEW FROM REMAINING PACKING SHED POST-REMOVAL OF WALL & CEILING. This view is looking eastward.

Donning dust masks amidst the haze, Justin (walking) and Caleb (in Skidsteer) work together to clean up odds-and-ends immediately after the ceiling and wall demolition.

Soon, that obsolete east portion of the Packing-Shed-floor would need to come out. But first with cold weather on the way, the pressing need was to switch over to super-insulating the warehouse ceiling.

In the next installment of our Wood Prairie construction saga, we’ll tell you about a green insulation technology which has gained a huge following since it was invented in Europe twenty years ago. The USA’s first European-inspired wood-fiber-insulation plant has now just come online. And it is located right here in the State of Maine.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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DEMOLITION TIME: REMOVING OBSOLETE CEILING AND WALL SECTIONS. Chainsaws and reciprocating saws come in handy for doin


DEMOLITION TIME: REMOVING OBSOLETE CEILING AND WALL SECTIONS. Chainsaws and reciprocating saws come in handy for doing demo work.

However, before we could do this demo work we had wiring to remove and re-route, including the original 200-amp breaker box we installed twenty-nine years ago when our Unorganized Township first got grid electric power.

We had constructed this Packing Shed structure in 1990. Megan’s brother, Peter, and father, John, came up to help us build the floor. We had gotten a good deal on dimensional Pine lumber from the Levesque sawmill over in Ashland. In multiple trips with our farm truck, Jim brought home 10,000 board feet of full 1″ x 12″ x 16′ long thick ‘boards’ we used for sub-flooring and sheathing. Each piece covered the same square footage as half a sheet of plywood, and many pieces were virtually totally free of knots. Price was $300/mbf.

Once the wiring was taken care of and the breaker box reinstalled on the permanent ICF wall, Caleb and Justin sawed up the ceiling and wall sections up into bite-sized pieces, as seen in this photo.

Then, using logging chains and our New Holland Skidsteer loader, they carefully removed the wood sections and drug them outdoors.

Caleb, Megan & JIm




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NEXT STEPS IN MAJOR RENOVATION TO WOOD PRAIRIE PACKING SHED. Without making any changes to the roof above, we decided t

NEXT STEPS IN MAJOR RENOVATION TO WOOD PRAIRIE PACKING SHED. Without making any changes to the roof above, we decided to lop off the eastern third of our Packing Shed.

This move will allow us to extend the upcoming concrete pour for the warehouse floor by an additional twelve feet westward. As well, the change will create the ability for us to transfer pallets of our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes with an electric forklift from our underground Potato Storage directly into the new warehouse without having to venture outdoors.

In this photo looking southward, Justin is putting together a 48-foot long 5.25” x 12” support-beam, built from six laminated veneer lumber (LVL) pieces 12” high by 1.75” thick by 24-foot long. The beam will be supported by three 6”x 6” metal posts bolted to the concrete wall in the cellar.

Once the beam was secured into place, we would be able to chain saw down and remove the obsolete portions of floor, walls, ceiling, and a portion of the old roof truss.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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UNORCHESTRATED DEMONSTRATION OF WHY SOME FOLKS GO TO FLORIDA IN THE WINTER. This cold week our friend and neighbor Fran


UNORCHESTRATED DEMONSTRATION OF WHY SOME FOLKS GO TO FLORIDA IN THE WINTER. This cold week our friend and neighbor Frank Kinney (standing, of “Kinney Road” fame) hauled in multiple truckloads of screened Bridgewater gravel needed for leveling out our warehouse floor, in preparation for next week’s concrete pour.

With this week’s cold snap and morning lows hovering around 0oF, we had to work to prevent the moisture in the gravel from freezing into a giant brick.

After the last load of gravel had been dumped, a couple of yards remained frozen to the dump bed. Swinging the pick axe in the bed in order to remedy that problem is Caleb. Beside him, Justin busts up peripheral frozen gravel with a shovel.

Standing outside and working with another shovel is Peter, Caleb’s brother. Peter is a skilled carpenter and has come up from southern Maine to help us get this major construction project completed. “Loki” is Peter’s young German Shepherd, born in Caribou.

We were Frank’s last gravel job of the year. After he left us he was headed to the M.E. Grass Truck garage in Mars Hill to get his truck inspected. Then he would park that truck until after snow melt next April, all ready for more work hauling gravel.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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INSTALLING METAL ROOF PANELS ON WAREHOUSE CEILING. We like doing business with the Amish. Over the years we have dealt


INSTALLING METAL ROOF PANELS ON WAREHOUSE CEILING. We like doing business with the Amish. Over the years we have dealt with many Amish businesses ever since the first Amish communities in Maine settled up here in Aroostook County 25 years ago.

Pictured above, these 14-foot lengths of white metal roofing were crimped-and-cut on site at Miller Metal in the Old Order Amish Community located in the Towns of Easton & Fort Fairfield, a half-hour away from our farm. Justin (visible here) and Caleb are standing in the bucket of the man-lift.

In order to save time they clamp one panel to the bucket and then Justin balances a second one on his head while Caleb maneuvers the boom into position. Utilizing battery-powered nail guns makes securing the panels go surprisingly fast.

Two years ago we bought the 72-foot roof trusses the panels are being nailed to from another Amish company also located in Fort. We opted to spend some extra money and had them build for us “Attic-Style Trusses.” Attic trusses incorporate into the design a potential living area, which in our case measures sixty feet-long by twenty feet wide by nine-feet high. This twelve-hundred-square foot unfinished space may one day become someone’s apartment or some additional office space. As we approach our 50th year of organic farming we’re doing our best to plan ahead!

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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